Chemicals In Your Cleaners

cleaning

Household cleaners are not usually your first concern when thinking about pollutants, since essentially you’re buying and using the cleaners to improve and keep your home clean and pest free. Many cleaners are effective in ridding our homes from dust, allergens and infectious agents but what are their side effects? A lot of chemicals in cleaners are harmful not only to ourselves but to our environment. The chemicals in our cleaners vary in the type of health hazard they can pose. Some chemicals can contribute to chemical burns, eye, skin, or respiratory irritation and if ingested they can burn your throat and esophagus, while others have a more long term effect like chronic illness or cancer.

Having harsh chemicals like nitrogen, phosphorus and ammonia in our waters is dangerous in large quantities. When we clean our sinks, bathtubs, and toilets we are unknowingly contaminating all the living organisms that swim or drink the untreated waters. Majority of the chemicals are treated and removed from the water in waste treatment facilities before they are reintroduced to the rivers, streams, lakes and other waterways but those 3 chemicals, they are not removed by the waste treatment process.You should never combine any bleach products with any cleaner containing ammonia because they can produce very toxic sometimes deadly gases.

Are there any alternative ways?

Of course! Buying greener, non-toxic, biodegradable, and made from renewable materials cleaners! Find cleaners that do not contain any petroleum-based chemicals, this is a non-renewable material. If you’re still in doubt in buying any household cleaner products use vinegar and baking soda, they can be used to clean almost anything! Just mix a little water with either the vinegar or baking soda and voilà, you have an all-purpose cleaner!

You can check out Earth911 for tips and mixing formulas.

Here are other sites that have great formulas and tips for having an Eco-friendly spring cleaning this year.

Vinegartips-  “White distilled vinegar is a popular household cleanser, effective for killing most mold, bacteria, and germs, due to its level of acidity. Cleaning with white distilled vinegar is a smart way to avoid using harsh chemicals. You’ll also be glad to know that it is environmentally friendly and very economical.”

Recyclebank-  Has tips from a professional green-home expert to refresh your home after a long winter.

GoodGuide- Rate products and companies on their health, environmental and social performance.

Don’t forget to check out Dolphin Blue’s wide selection of cleaning products.

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Chemical and Organic Fertilizers

We use organic and inorganic fertilizers to grow and add nutrients to our gardens in order for our plants, fruits and vegetables to grow faster and more efficiently. The most common fertilizers are chemical, inorganic fertilizers because they are relatively cheaper than organic fertilizers. Is cheaper always better? Some fertilizers are not as healthy or environmentally friendly as you think they are, they can cause damage to your soil, garden and our groundwater.

Chemical Fertilizer

Chemical fertilizers are produced synthetically from inorganic materials. They provide plants with 3 essential nutrients; phosphorous, nitrogen and potassium. Nitrogen can break down into nitrate and easily travel and seep through the soil, because it’s water-soluble it can remain in our groundwater for a long time diminishing our quality of drinking water as well as the habitat and health of our aquatic animals.  Drinking contaminated groundwater can have serious health effects for us as well; some long term exposure of contaminated water can cause certain types of cancer.

Long term exposure of chemical fertilizers can cause soil dehydration and destruction of plant tissue. The longer you use chemical fertilizers the more you’ll end up needing in order to successfully grow crops.

Organic Fertilizer

Taking a more organic approach with your lawns and gardens. Organic fertilizers are made with remains or by products of organisms like fish extract, seaweed and manure and compost materials. Organic fertilizers can add nutrients to soil, increase soil organic matter, improves soil structures and water holding capacity. They can also reduce soil crusting and erosion from wind and water and slowly and consistently release nutrients to your soil and plants.

Some farmers using organic fertilizers like Neptune have even gone to hold world records for having the biggest vegetables.

Fun Fact- Sewer Sludge in fertilizers

Farmers in some countries use sewage sludge as fertilizers. You read that right. They apply human waste to crops and soils. Sewer sludge frequently tests positive for a host of heavy metals, flame retardants, polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons, pharmaceuticals, phthalates, dioxins, and a host of other chemicals and organisms. Out of all those and other thousands contaminants found in sludge, the U.S. government regulates exactly 10 of them. Sometimes the various contaminants in sewage are at low levels, some chemicals bind to the soil some don’t, some seep into groundwater others are insoluble in water.

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Fact Friday: Indoor Plants

flowersHere is a list of indoor plants that can help improve your air quality and remove harmful toxins:

  1. Peace Lily- Peace Lilies absorb benzene, formaldehyde, trichloroethylene, and more.
  2. Spider Plant- Absorbs benzene, formaldehyde, carbon monoxide and xylene.
  3. Golden Pothos- Indestructible and an effective indoor purifier in the world. 
  4. English Ivy- Can remove allergens such as mold and animal feces. 
  5. Areca Palm- The most effect indoor purifier and is an excellent air humidifier.
  6. Snake Plant- Also known as mother-in-law’s tongue, is one of the best plants for filtering out formaldehyde.
  7. Chrysanthemum- This plants blooms help filter out benzene.
  8. Azalea- Remove formaldehyde from plywood or foam isolation. 
  9. Dracaena- Eliminates formaldehyde, xylene, toluene, benzene and trichloroethylene.
  10. Chinese Evergreen- Filters out air pollutants and can begin to remove more toxins as time and exposure continues. 
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Vertical Gardens

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Living in the city is great and all but being constantly surrounded by noise, traffic and pollution is not good for your mental and physical health. Having limited yard space can be unsettling if you have an interest in gardening. Well do not fret for now there is a new trend (although it has been around since 1938) sprouting worldwide and it’s called Vertical Gardening (also known as BioWalls, EcoWalls, Living Walls or Green Walls). What is a Vertical garden you ask? Vertical gardens are panels of plants grown vertically using hydroponics, on structures that can either be free standing or attached to walls. Vertical Gardens also come with a lot of healthy benefits. Here are some of those benefits.

Improves Air Quality

Plants have been proven to filter and remove toxins, by introducing vertical gardens into your home or office you can remove harmful toxins that are common in modern buildings. There are different types of plants that can remove common indoor toxic chemicals and improve the air around you. Here are some examples; Peace Lily can remove Formaldehyde (CH2O), Spider Plant can remove Carbon Monoxide (CO), Devils Ivy can remove Volatile Organic Compounds (VOCs) and Mother-in-law’s Tongue can remove Trichloroethylene (TCE).

Increases Workplace Productivity

Studies have shown that simply having a green view in a workplace increases work productivity, happiness and motivation of employees. Not to mention the fact of having plants indoors reduces symptoms of discomfort and decreases the number of days off due to “sickness.”

Regulates Temperature

They help with the heating and cooling of your home or office by providing a living installation barrier to the outside of your space that will catch all the heat or cold from hot summers to the cold winters.  They also protect buildings and structures from extreme temperatures and help slow down the deterioration of buildings and structures.

No Back Pain

For people who have back issues but love gardening, growing vertical gardens is a lot easier because the times you bend and crouch for plants to harvest, weed or water is reduced.

If you’re interested in making your own Vertical Garden, there’s plenty of online tutorials to help you along with the process. It is highly recommended to do proper research if you want to make a Vertical Garden in your home or office.

 

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Fact Friday: Paper Recycling

newspaperDid you know?

  • Recycling a single run of the Sunday New York Times would save 75,000 trees.
  • If all our newspaper was recycled, we could save about 250,000,000 trees each year!
  • The average American uses seven trees a year in paper, wood, and other products made from trees.
  • The amount of wood and paper we throw away each year is enough to heat 50,000,000 homes for 20 years.
  • Approximately 1 billion trees worth of paper are thrown away every year in the U.S.
  • Americans use 85,000,000 tons of paper a year; about 680 pounds per person.
  • The average household throws away 13,000 separate pieces of paper each year. Most is packaging and junk mail.
  • Every day, Americans buy about 62 million newspapers and throw out around 44 million of them. If we recycled just half our newsprint every year, we would need 3,200 fewer garage trucks to collect our trash.
  • Americans throw away the equivalent of more than 30 million trees in newsprint each year.
  • For every 15,000 tons of old newspaper recycled annually, 30 jobs are created to collect the paper, and 40 jobs are created to process the paper.
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It’s Not Plastic, It’s Not Paper but it takes up 21% of our Landfills

foodchartLet’s face it, we are all guilty of throwing away food. Whether you accidentally cooked too much last week and never got around to reheating it or maybe that unlucky item that was pushed to the back of your pantry expired, we all have had a reason to discard unused or unwanted food. It’s just food right? What harm can food possibly do? Well, all that food has to go somewhere. Food waste goes directly to landfills and incinerators with only 4% being diverted for composting. Every year around 36 million tons of food waste reaches our landfills. Although food waste does decompose, it produces methane, a potent greenhouse gas when it breaks down in landfills. Here are some tips on what we can do to reduce our carbon footprint and divert food waste from our landfills.

Reduce over-purchasing

Purchase only the food that will be used. Avoid large quantities of an item; even if it’s on sale think about if you’re really going to eat it all. It also helps to have a list or guideline on hand when you go grocery shopping. Keep yourself on track and avoid buying things on impulse.

Compost

Composting transforms your kitchen waste into valuable nutrients for your garden. There’s a difference when food waste decomposes in a landfill and when it decomposes on the ground at your home. In landfills air cannot get to the organic waste and so when food waste breaks down it produces methane, which is bad. On the other hand at home it decomposes aerobically which means oxygen helps the waste break down and so hardly any methane is produced.

Donate fresh food to those in need

Donate any non-perishable and unspoiled perishable food to your local food banks, soup kitchens pantries and shelters. Check with them to find out what items they will and will not accept.

Check out 21 frightening U.S Facts and Statistics about Food Waste  

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Ethical Traveler Announces Top 10 Ethical Destinations for 2014

Looking to make tracks in a new land in the most responsible way possible? It all starts with choosing the right place to visit. Ethical Traveler, a nonprofit project of the Earth Island Institute, has announced the 10 most ethical destinations in the developing world for 2014, based on their contribution to human rights, environmental preservation and social welfare. The goal is to incentivize ethical practices abroad by rewarding those destinations with increased tourism dollars.

What makes each location deserving and desirable? Read on:

Swimming pigs in the Bahamas. Photo: Flickr/cdorobek

Swimming pigs in the Bahamas. Photo: Flickr/cdorobek

The Bahamas
A paragon of the sandy beach getaway, The Bahamas is back on the list after previously missing the cut. An increased focus on the development of protected areas in Andros West Side National Park and a notable administrative effort to reduce human trafficking has won the attention of Ethical Traveler (although the group is concerned about unethical wildlife destinations such as the pending dolphin park at Blackbeard’s Cay). The Bahamas received a perfect score from Freedom House in both political rights and civil liberties categories.

Barbados
If you’ve got an itch for a cool rum cocktail and a tropical island sunset, Barbados is a breathtaking and ethically informed option. The Caribbean country was commended for its environmentally conscious development agenda, which has protected the coastline while still promoting tourism. Ranking especially high in social welfare and human rights, Barbados leads by example in nearly every category explored by Ethical Traveler.

Cape Verde
Charles Darwin must have forgotten his wetsuit back in 1832 when he referred to the island of Cape Verde as “dull” and “uninteresting.” Water sports enthusiasts will find plenty of opportunities to get their feet wet at this famous windsurfing and kiteboarding destination. Cape Verde is the No. 1 ranked African country on Freedom House’s Freedom in the World 2013 survey and has declared an ambitious plan to reach 100 percent renewable energy by 2020.

Chile
Home to the astounding Huilo Huilo Biological Reserve, which won a World Responsible Tourism Award in November 2013 for its contribution to sustainable environment and species programs, Chile has also made strides in the realm of social welfare. With the highest Gini index equality ranking of this year’s ethical destinations and the highest possible score in political rights and civil liberties as determined by Freedom House, this South American nation is proving its devotion to the protection of its people and the preservation of its wonderful natural landmarks.

Morne Trois Pitons National Park in Dominica. Photo: Flickr/luna76

Morne Trois Pitons National Park in Dominica. Photo: Flickr/luna76

Dominica
“Isle of beauty, isle of splendor,” boasts the Dominican national anthem. The “Nature Island” has set a goal to become energy independent and carbon negative by 2020, and has expanded solar power around the island. The Caribbean country is also working to preserve rare species of mountain chickens, frogs and iguanas. Phenomenal scenic hikes and mountain bike routes show off the idyllic natural landscape, while Champagne Reef’s uniquely warm waters are home to some of the world’s premier diving and snorkeling.

Latvia
There’s lots to love in Latvia, which was recognized as one of 10 countries in the world ranking at the top of 10 policy categories in both environmental public health and ecosystem vitality. The Daugava River splits the beautiful capital city of Riga, which has shed its postwar bleakness in favor of a bustling market atmosphere with a vibrant nightlife scene. Latvia received the highest ranking of this year’s countries in gender equality.

Lithuania
Raw, unmanicured wilderness is preserved by a Lithuanian devotion to protecting the natural environment. Visitors can explore any of the five national and 30 regional parks free of charge. The Northern European nation has made major strides in social welfare, having dropped its under-5 mortality rate by 52 percent since 2000. Lithuania was also recognized with a high score in human rights and the newly added animal welfare category.

Mauritius
It’s no surprise the now-extinct Dodo bird never chose to leave the island of Mauritius. The city of Grand Bay is a true paradise, now catering to tourists in search of white-sand beaches, great food and glass-bottom boat tours. Safari Jeep tours will take explorers through Yemen natural reserve park in search of zebras, ostriches, monkeys, and antelope. Mauritius was commended for its devotion to expanding tourism while protecting the environment. Additionally, the Indian Ocean island nation made great improvements in both social welfare and human rights categories, demonstrating a notable commitment to long-term development.

Kayaking in Palau. Photo: Flickr/LuxTonnerre

Kayaking in Palau. Photo: Flickr/LuxTonnerre

Palau
World-class scuba diving and snorkeling highlight the islands of Palau, where tourists may encounter hidden caves, wartime wreckage, and massive drop-offs during the many guided tours offered. More than 28 percent of Palau’s marine and terrestrial area is protected, the highest percentage of any destination on this year’s list. Palau also received the highest possible rating in political rights and civil liberties.

Uruguay
Uruguay’s ambitious move toward sustainable energy has impressed Ethical Traveler, which lauded the South American country’s goal of 90 percent renewable energy by 2015. Uruguay has established itself as the model for socially progressive government, legalizing marriage equality, marijuana, and first-trimester abortion this year. Youth hostels provide an affordable option for peso-pinchers looking to cavort about the famous sand dunes and discotheques of Punta del Este.

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